With the start of the NBA Playoffs right around the corner, the subject of “resting” in the league is front and center. This past decade has seen teams more than ever occasionally rest their star players for at least one contest during consecutive games on consecutive nights, or stretches of four games in five nights. The godfathers of resting are the San Antonio Spurs as their head coach Gregg Popovich has been known to occasionally sit out his star players during consecutive nights in the hopes of keeping his squad fresh for the postseason. Popovich has at times drawn the ire of the NBA over this as he’s not a fan of how the league schedules games at times. But even with the resting of key players, the Spurs will still take the court and give maximum effort which more often than not has led to victories. However the same cannot be said for other teams around the league.
There hasn’t been a team around the NBA that isn’t currently on the resting bandwagon as it is the new fad in the league. And whether they know it or not, this practice is damaging the NBA’s image.
Resting has been brought into the spotlight due to the fact that we’ve seen marquee teams such as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers invoke this practice during nationally televised games. On Saturday February 25 against the Chicago Bulls and Saturday March 18 versus the Los Angeles Clippers, the Cavaliers rested some of their key players such as LeBron James. Cleveland would go on to lose both contests by a combined 48 points. On March 11, the Warriors would rest a trio of All-Stars in power forward Draymond Green, point guard Steph Curry, and shooting guard Klay Thompson as they lost to the Spurs 107-85. Each one of these contests were marquee games that were televised on Saturday night on ABC, but the product was far from being top of the line.
In recent years NBA players have complained about having too many back-to-back games which is something that league is addressing. NBA commissioner Adam Silver is attempting to spread out the 82-game regular season slate for each team in order to not have as many consecutive games in consecutive nights, but led by James, is it time that the players hold up their end of the bargain.
As the NBA has its new television deal with their national broadcast partners in ESPN and Turner Sports, player’s salaries have skyrocketed. This was illustrated last summer when guard Tyler Johnson received a four-year, $50 million to remain with the Miami Heat, or point guard Mike Conley Jr. resigning with the Memphis Grizzlies to the tune of $153 million over five years which is the richest contract in NBA history. James who got tired of taking less money throughout his NBA career is receiving $30.9 million this season. But when players signed their names on the dotted line, there were responsibilities that came with it as well.
At times James feels that he has been unfairly scrutinized by fans and the media, but as the face of the NBA, it comes with the territory. James wants to win titles, but when the NBA advertises you being available for a marquee game and you’re not performing, it sets a bad precedent. ESPN and Turner were willing to overpay in order to bank roll your product thus you owe it to them, along with the sponsors who back them, and the fans to perform. It’s not right to expect fans to spend their hard earned money to pay top dollar to watch an NBA game, but instead be relegated to watching a glorified D-League contest.
James and other NBA players will complain about the riggers of the regular season in the NBA. But in previous eras of basketball, the NBA and its teams didn’t provide their players with the amenities that the current league has such as chartered flights, meals, five-star lodging, and state-of-art facilities, which includes top notch trainers as well as physicians. Players such as Hall of Famers Bill Russell, Karl Malone, and Michael Jordan never asked their respective coaches to have a night off in order to preserve themselves for the postseason as they competed on a nightly basis. And these players never made excuses either if they came up short in the playoffs as they always embraced the challenge of competing.
Current stars in the NBA such as James approached the league about extending the All-Star break from three days to seven days in order to have time to rest, along with spending time with their families due to the riggers of All-Star weekend. Silver granted them their wish, while he is also opening to cutting down the consecutive games on consecutive nights and it’s time for the players to put the excuses to bed. But the players haven’t been living up to their end of the bargain which includes the All-Star Game becoming a glorified walk through with each side scoring nearly 200 points.
Yes the riggers of an NBA season are taxing on a body, but that comes with the territory. Every player in the NBA is there because they want to be as it is not a requirement. And if you can accept the money of these billionaire owners, then you also accept the responsibilities that come with it. I guarantee you that if players were only compensated for the actual games that they played in, this whole resting aspect would go out of style like the jheri curl. But like everything else, it has become a problem due to overkill.
For years the NBA had a problem with flagrant fouls and fighting until “The Malace At The Palace” in 2005 and now brawls in the league are a thing of the past. Former NBA commissioner David Stern did fine the Spurs for resting in the past, and you can expect Silver to attempt to flex his muscles in the same way on the entire league in order to put a stop to this practice.
I understand that Silver works for the owners, but he also has to answer to the corporate sponsors who have forked over money and they have to protect their bottom line. It’s going to be complicated to find the proper answer to fix this problem of resting, but the best way to solve it is to begin the process of brainstorming.